We all got a little eccentric during COVID lockdowns. Some took up baking. Some took up crochet. And HBO chief Casey Bloys allegedly went directly staff to anonymously troll critics who didn’t like the network’s programming.
Bloys’ actions came to light as the result of a lawsuit filed by a former executive assistant who alleges discrimination, harassment and retaliation, CNN reported. And while HBO denies those allegations, Bloys has owned up to his social media trolling by proxy, which he says came as a result of “’spending an unhealthy amount of time scrolling Twitter.’”
Text messages released during the lawsuit show Bloys directing staff to tweet rebuttals to reviews that displeased him.
“Can our secret operative please tweet at (Rolling Stone TV critic Alan Sepinwall’s) review: ‘Alan is always predictably safe and scared in his opinions.’ And then we have to delete this chain right? Omg I just got scared lol,” one text reads.
That message was indeed tweeted in response to Sepinwall’s review.
Bloys took responsibility for the smears during the HBO and Max 2024 Slate Presentation in New York, according to CNN, calling it a “very dumb idea” and apologizing for those mentioned in the texts.
“I have progressed over the last couple of years to DMs,” Bloys told the audience. “When I take issue with something, I DM you. Many of you are gracious enough to engage in a back and forth with me.”
Why it matters:
If you felt a shiver down your spine at the idea of your executive team engaging in anything like this, you’re certainly not alone. This kind of covert trolling might make some leaders feel good in the moment, but it won’t accomplish anything in the long run and can make an executive look “very dumb” in the long run. In this case, it also ran the risk of damaging relationships with journalists.
But you know that. You’re a PR pro. You know how social media and regular media works and why this is a bad idea.
This is just your reminder to help your executives understand it too.
Even if the CEO isn’t running the idea of secretly attacking detractors by you, keep emphasizing the need for honesty and transparency in social media use. Ask if they have questions. And use this as a case study to demonstrate the potential consequences of a moment of catharsis.
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